Tuesday, December 26, 2006

'Sex Machine' is 'Out of Sight' - an Obituary

Today's morning gave me a sad news. James Brown commonly referred to as 'Godfather of Soul' died in Atlanta at the age of 73. Along with Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and a handful of others, Brown was one of the major musical influences of the past 50 years. At least one generation idolised him and sometimes openly copied him. His rapid-footed dancing inspired Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson, among others.

As for me, I fell in love with him the minute I heard 'I Got You (I feel good)' for the first time. I'm not a 'dance' person (to the unhappiness of my girl-friend), but play me any James Brown number and you can see me moving...

Read what Jon Pareles of the NY Times wrote in an obituary that I believe will be updated throughout the day:

Mr. Brown's music was sweaty and complex, disciplined and wild, lusty and socially conscious. Beyond his dozens of hits, Mr. Brown forged an entire musical idiom that is now a foundation of pop worldwide.
"I taught them everything they know, but not everything I know," he wrote in an autobiography.
The funk he introduced in his 1965 hit, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," was both deeply rooted in Africa and thoroughly American. It found the percussive side of every instrument and meshed sharply syncopated patterns into kinetic polyrhythms that simply made people dance.
His innovations reverberated through the soul and rhythm-and-blues of the 1970s and the hip-hop of the next three decades. The beat of his instrumental "Funky Drummer" may well be the most widely sampled rhythm in hip-hop.

He won a Grammy award for lifetime achievement in 1992, as well as Grammys in 1965 for Papa's Got a Brand New Bag (best R&B recording) and for Living In America in 1987 (best R&B vocal performance, male). He was one of the first artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, with Presley, Chuck Berry and other founding fathers.
Only Elvis had more hits than Brown.

ps: later during the lunch break, I played some of the stuff from the man...my body and feet grooved and I became happy. No great artiste ever dies...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Two Smiles In One Day

There are times when you feel good about your country and yesterday was one such day. The Indian cricket team, the Indian judiciary and the intertwined story of human triumph are responsible for this ‘feel-good’. Let me tell you how.

Indian team beat South Africa in their home-turf. While this Test is an incredible story in itself, a tale of great sporting triumph in the face of adversity, it is as much a tale of great human triumph in the face of tremendous hardship and a fascinating mosaic of several individual stories. Big and heroic return of Ganguly, emergence of Sreesanth and comebacks of Zaheer and Laxman. I am not the usual cricket crazy Indian, yet the victory (in more ways than one) gave me a big smile to carry through the day. And it came back today when I read about it in the morning newspaper. The story of this epoch-making Test will be told to young cricketers and readers for a long time, and rightly so.

Even if it's seven years after the crime, justice prevailed in the much-talked case of Jessica Lall’s murder. Rang De Basanti, Citizens of India, the victim’s family & friends, Bina Ramani and the sensibilities (Der Aaye Par Durust Aaye) of the judiciary system of our country contributed towards this much-awaited verdict. Once again, this is a great tale of undying human spirit and its ultimate triumph. So,
this news added to my smile and here I am, writing about my happiness. As for Manu Sharma’s fate, I don’t want to hear another capital punishment from the court of justice. To know why, read my earlier post on the subject at http://tangled-up-in-views.blogspot.com/2006/10/short-piece-on-killing.html
Did you also feel the way I felt about these two stories?

Monday, December 18, 2006

'Dark Star' or 'To all the trips I've had before'

Jerry Garcia said, "Dark Star has meant, while I was playing it, almost as many things as I can sit and imagine". When I heard it for the first time (of course, under certain influences), I thought I made an 11 minutes inter-galactic journey with the bizarrest of the visual imageries surrounding my closed eyes....what a strange trip it was! (for more on Dark Star, you can read this http://arts.ucsc.edu/GDead/AGDL/ds.html)

Thanks to one mp3 player gifted by mr bojangles, I am revisiting 'Dark Star' (no 'influences' this time) these days and been tripping with equal passion. So, I sat down and listed some other great trippy tracks from the 'days' and realised that they will always remain the 'trips'. The list:

  1. Dark Star - Grateful Dead (the tuning in the middle of the song is the 'killer' here)

  2. Highlands - Bob Dylan ( "I'm lost somewhere, I must have made a few bad turns")

  3. The Rain Song - Led Zepplin (used beautifully in the movie 'Almost famous')

  4. Echoes - Pink Floyd (always takes me to a 'cold desert'...though ive never been to one)

  5. T B Sheets - Van Morrison (gotta go, gotta go, gotta go...partners in crime)

  6. Sister Morphine - The Rolling Stones (got hold of the acoustic version of it, recently...excellent!)

  7. Because - The Beatles (guess the movie 'American Beauty' ends with this track)

  8. Heroine - Velvet Underground (very very very heroine...)

  9. Sparks - The Who (listen to it alone in a dark room with a candle burning)

  10. The End - The Doors (remember Apocalypse???)

Genres like Indian Classical, Jazz, Qawwalis, Bhajans, Boleros (specially the one by Ravel) also take you on certain trips but I have limited my list to the 'strange trip' variety (okay...i wont use the word again). My dear 'Do-Re-Me' pals....kindly share your list.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Marlboro Gays

Sony Pix is proving to be a great channel for me...apart from other genres, I've been revisiting old westerners for the last 3-4 day, which in turn made me think of a recent release which can be termed as a 'Disruptive Westerner'- Brokeback Mountain...and it worked!

Contrast is the key to the drama here...2 macho men, straight from the hoardings of marlboro fall for each other, one summer in the locales of snow-covered 'brokeback' mountain.

The movie spans some 20 years of their lives wherein they are trying to balance their respective family lives and the relationship between them. Breathtaking visuals, minimal use of beautiful music and understated performance of heath ledger makes it a good viewing.

With my sexual inclinations, I couldn't empathise with the situation but with my experiences in love, could identify with the emotions involved. A slow pace, repititions of the same situation and a lack of universal appeal are some of the negatives in this oscar nominee. Worth one viewing for all movie buffs (strictly in the theater, but)

Monday, November 27, 2006

To all the girls I've loved before

while my last post was on democratization of music, this one is going to be a sort of contradiction. i get some sort of intellectual satisfaction by contradicting myself...its like i am having an argument with myself (people playing chess against themselves must be feeling the same, i guess).

the idea came up while chatting with an old 'DoReMe' pal. the man recently gifted me 'Closing Time' by Tom Waits and while discussing the song 'Martha' from the album the thought came. lets make an album which has tracks with the title as the name of the girl with 2 filters: a) all classic male bands/singers b) a song each by these greats. here is my list...

1. Ramona - Bob Dylan
2. Gloria - Van Morrison
3. Suzanne - Leonard Cohen
4. Julia - The Beatles
5. Angie - The Rolling Stones
6. Katie Mae - Grateful dead
7. Kathy's Song - Simon & Garfunkel
8. Martha - Tom Waits
9. Desiree - Neil Diamond

10. Hazey Jane I & II - Nick Drake

the album to be titled as 'To all the girls Ive loved before' and sent to our ex girl-friends....what do you think guys???

i shall be glad to hear about your list...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


In the beginning we were victims of the format. Names like Billboard & Decca Records etc told us that top Springsteen hit was “Dancing in the Dark” (they still tell you these things) while your personal hit was “I’m on fire” (still is)

They also packaged something like the ‘Greatest Hits’ by Bob Dylan and gave them to you in the form of an LP, magnetic tape or an Audio CD depending on the technology of the times while you kept wondering,‘where are the songs which I dig, man?’ (and they still continue to throw those ‘Greatest Hits’ sorts but who cares...)

Then came Internet, followed by a magical format called MP3 and the world of recorded music became free (the world of music is always free)…suddenly getting music was within the reach of all who had a high speed internet access…it could be downloaded, shared, carried in a small device, logically called the 'MP3 player' and enjoyed by anyone anywhere. No more listening to what somebody else is telling you to, no more listening to it in a particular sequence, no more buying expensive CDs for a particular song, no more waiting for that particular CD to come to a store near you…you could just pick up your favorite music from the country of Net, put it in your MP3 player and make something like ‘Greatest Hits’ by Vishal (ie if thats your name)...music became more personal. MP3 freed you from the other formats and allowed you to ‘Play with Music’ rather than just ‘Play the Music’

I call it DO-RE-MEcracy or the musical democracy!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The saddest poem ever written - leaf from the past diaries 2

When it comes to pathos and 'ishq' (I am still unable to find an English equivalent of this word) nothing beats the Urdu poets. Its almost difficult to believe that a language (and hence its litterature) which is just about 3 centuries old can be so rich and robust. Once again in my past diaries, I found something which I felt can be reproduced for you. Its a translation of (as the name suggests) one of the saddest poems Ive ever read from this side of the world.
Israr-ul-Haq Majaaz was one of the leading poets of the pre-independence days. He went mad after experiencing the gore of partition and spent his last days in an asylum! Below is a nazm by him called 'Awaara'...the pain soaked helplessness the poet's cry is unfathomable. I got exposed to it for the first time from a Talat Mehmood's (that playback singer from yesteryears) rendition of it and then later by an excellent Jagjit Singh's rendition of it from Kahkashaan. Ever since it has been one of my all time favorites so I tried to do justice to my passion by translating it for the larger audience of my friends...

Shahar kii raat aur mai.n naashaad-o-naakaaraa phiruu.N
Jagamagaatii jaagatii sa.Dako.n pe aavaaraa phiruu.N
Gair kii bastii hai kab tak dar badar maraa phiruu.N
Ai Gam-e-dil kyaa karuu.N,
Ai vahashat-e-dil kyaa karuu.N

Ye roopahalii chhaao.N ye aakaash par taaro.n kaa jaal
Jaise suufii kaa tasavvur jaise aashiq kaa Khayaal
Aah lekin kaun jaane kaun samajhe jii kaa haal
Ai Gam-e-dil kyaa karuu.N
Ai vahashat-e-dil kyaa karuu.N

Raaste me.n ruk ke dam le luu.N merii aadat nahii.n
LauT kar vaapas chalaa jaauu.N merii fitarat nahii.n
Aur koii ham-navaa mil jaae ye qismat nahii.n
Ai Gam-e-dil kyaa karuu.N ai vahashat-e-dil kyaa karuu.N

Ik mahal kii aa.D se nikalaa vo piilaa maahataab

Jaise mullaah kaa amaamaa jaise baniye kii kitaab
Jaise muflis kii javaanii jaise bevaa kaa shabaab
Ai Gam-e-dil kyaa karuu.N ai vahashat-e-dil kyaa karuu.N

Night has fallen in the city, and I roam disappointed and defeated
On dazzling, lit streets, I roam, a vagabond
It is not my neighborhood, how long can I loiter like this
Anguished heart, desperate heart, what should I do?

These beautiful shadows, this net of stars on the sky
Like a Sufi’s contemplation, a poets thought
But aah, who is to narrate my heart’s tale
Anguished heart, desperate heart, what should I do?

To stop and rest on the way is not my habit
To admit defeat is not my styleTo find a companion, is not my fate
Anguished heart, desperate heart, what should I do?

From behind a palace, emerged the yellow moon
Like a mulla’s robe, like a money lender’s ledger
Like a poor man’s youth, a widow’s beauty
Anguished heart, desperate heart, what should I do?

For those who do not know, Israr Ul Haq Majaz was the uncle of Javed Akhtar and brother-in-law of the famous Jaan Nisaar Akhtar (one who wrote the lyrics for many old movie songs, including the classic 'Aankhon Hi Aankhon Mein Ishaara Ho Gaya).
Am taking a break from Blogsville for a period of 10 days as I have a busy holiday ahead. Until then...

Monday, November 06, 2006

A leaf from the past diaries - 1

while rummaging through my writings from the past, i found something which i thought can be put up as a posting...this is about 3 years old and from my solitary phase.

Once again, the fragility of all things screamed at me. This time in the form of a road accident which left 4 humans and a machine injured (no deaths, thankfully). They were coming back from a succesful business presentation from Aurangabad to Pune. In fact, a few hours before this accident, we had spoken to them about the meeting which had just got over, and had also cracked some funnies. And a few hours later, we get this phone call informing us about the mishap. We got a shocker...any bubble can burst any fucking moment...then why do we keep struggling inside it? Why do we care, why do we cry, why cant we burst it ourselves, break free and kiss the sun? and while kissing the sun, melt within it and shine for the rest of the earths life? Guess we are weak... thats why, guess we need supports...thats why, guess we all have a purposeless existence... thats why, guess we are mere whims who take themselves too seriously...thats why, or perhaps because we are the cogs of this mammoth machine which is running without a purpose...cogs which can think and feel...this stupid machine fueled by 'time'.

The identities of the 4 and the us mentioned above are inconsequential. They are your regular people from everyday life. actually, these thoughts too are inconsequential but its just that i have to put them down. one has to keep breathing even if he cant predict his death - isnt this the ultimate irony of life?

The routine
Every evening a sun rises
Inside my soul,
Beckoning me to wake up
And bathe in its light

I get out of my daydreams,
Brush my mind with some codeine,
Make it ready for the day ahead.
With some coffee and bread.

I hit the roads,
To gather dark snaps of the world,
To hear its muffled eclectic sounds,
With my thoughts wandering around.

Loittering around the night,
I meet one dying morning light,
Getting ready with its sunset.
And i think, 'soon, it'll be time to bed'.

Taking out the pen,
To guide my thoughts into the diary,
I light the last 'cancer' of the night
And start writing by the dying light.

The words melt into a dull slumber
The smoke gets blown away
The slumber melts into sleep
And im back with my daydreams.

posting these words from the past made me happy...how did you feel after reading them?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The egg and the butterfly

As will be true for most houses in metros, Sunday is the cleaning day for my house. That’s the day when elements like time, desire to clean and the cleaning maid converge to produce that shine effect. The way I go about it is like this - I play the role of an opening band for the main performer (who is the cleaning bai in this case). So, I set the stage for the main act by pulling out all the unnecessary stuff from places like bookracks, music corner, dining table and other such places and dumping them on the floor. Later, the Diva comes and gives a rocking performance! (Ok..this nicely described Sunday may just happen twice a month to my house.) Last Sunday was one such occasion.

With Dave Brubeck in the background I was moving from one spot to another with my opening act and came upon the cupboard on top of which lay my travel knapsack. Thinking of the coming journey, I pulled it out with a quick action. In the microseconds that elapsed between my thought to pull it out and the actual act, the following train of thoughts occurred within me:

I have been seeing a pigeon frequenting the top of the cupboard (its placed close to the window) for a while…what if there are eggs there…they’ll come down with the knapsack and…dammit!

Followed by a heart-breaking sound…Phchaaaak!

Saxaphone continued in the backdrop. I kept staring at the tiny yellow and white mass spread on the floor with broken white shell and some twigs. The new train of thoughts:

Shit man…I ended a life…but no it wasn’t a life yet….still man…now the mother will keep on trying to find this…I broke the nest too…man this isn’t good…and I almost knew this was going to happen…had I been a little careful about the whole thing.

‘Blue Rondo’ kept playing in the backdrop.

10 minutes later the floor looked like nothing had happened (i had cleaned it up). But somehow, my heart still carried the smudge and ears the sound. It wasn’t a comfortable feeling.

Then, wisdom came to my rescue and I became better. I thought of how I saved the life of a butterfly a few days ago and realized that I am not so bad. Notes of Kathy's waltz filled up my ears and the heart was filled up with a small smile. It’s a nice way to ease ones conscience…thinking of your good deed to get even stevens with the bad one (am not talking about the deliberate ones here). Try it sometime and tell me if it worked for you.

For the butterfly story, as I always say…you might read it in some other posting.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Some of my 3rd thought!

‘I love the sight of S A L E written with red on yellow, anywhere…I may not buy anything from there, yet it brings a smile on my face’, my colleague Amita announced, while we were on our way to a business meeting. She had just seen it written on some shop, from the window of our moving car. This sent me into a spin of thoughts, which I shall be sharing presently.

First thought (this one had come to me a few months ago also under different circumstances)
Even I feel great when I look at HDFC bank logo.

My first bank account with an ATM facility was with HDFC and it was a corporate account. So, it means the following things to me
- Symbol of my independence from Dadsent monies

- Source of material pleasures come from this place

Second thought (and this is an Advertising / Marketing one)
McDonalds used this insight to make a beautiful and award-winning commercial.

It showed a baby swinging on a swing. When the swing goes backward, the baby cries but when the swing comes forward, he smiles. This sequence from a different perspective shows us that he is in front of a window, which overlooks the famous golden arch of McDonalds which he gets to see only when he comes forward.

In marketing jargon they’ve given a name for this...its called 'Sensory Branding’. So the brands of today, deliberately try achieving this through odors/packaging/touch/look etc to attract and stay in the minds of customers, while McDonalds achieved it unknowingly. Beautiful, isnt it?

Third thought, in fact some of my third thought (guess everyone will identify with this one)
Remember the smell of first rains ?
Remember the gentle touch of your grandmother’s palm on your forehead?
Remember the feel of your mother’s sari you held when you used to tag along with her to every place?
Remember how the desks in your school looked like with cavities to store pencils, erasers and sharpeners and many scratch marks?
Remember the length of hair of the prettiest teacher in the school?
Remember the smell of your father? (which in most cases would be the smell of either Old Spice or Brut)
Remember the taste of 25 paise orange ice-candy?
Remember, the voice of your first crush?
Remember the sound of mom yelling at you to turn the volume down? (I still hear it sometimes, when am listening to loud music…even when she isn’t around to yell)

This can go on and on till you come to your present which you can use later to make another remember list. Please share some of your ‘remember’ list sometime…trust me, you will enjoy putting them down. I did!

My looooong (5 os for 5 days) were filled with some classic movies (Ikuru being the best), some good new music (which is always a delight), wine (as usual, white) and some really good time with old friends.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Communist Poet?

Thanks to my upbringing in an Urdu (and a literary one at that) culture, I got exposed to all the great poets of the language at an early stage. From the ghazals sung by the likes of Mehendi Hasan/Farida Khanam to my Ammi uttering 'Shers' on her own to some evening arguments happening between my parents and their friends over a certain 'Sher' from 'Ghalib' (and over unending rounds of 'orange pekoe'), I was always there as a curiois child understanding little, but trying very hard and most of all enjoying myself. The already poetic name of Faiz Ahmed Faiz mustve fallen on my little ears during one of those times.

I grew up thinking that Faiz only wrote about joys, longings and the million other shades of love which is great and beautiful in itself. But, later, when I started devouring his other works (of course with help from my parents, as I have a limited knowledge of Urdu), I discovered another shade of his poetry.The world in its ways of branding artforms called it political or communist or socialist poetry. I feel he was just being an 'Intelligent, Aware & Alert' human being who also happened to be a poet. So, if you combine these 4 aspects you get a man who'd be writing about the incorrect aspects of this world and how to try to set them right. And thats what he was doing...something which isn't particularly there in Urdu poetry.
With my limited knowledge of Urdu and English, I tried translating some of his works for my English friendly friends. Allow me to put up one of them (this one is on an aspect of 'Love' and has been beautifully rendered by Abida Parveen). Please keep in mind that a lot gets lost in translation.

Shaam-e-firaque ab na pooch
Aayee aura a ke tal gayee
Dil tha ke phir behel gayaa
Jaan thi ki phir sambhal gayi

Don’t ask me of my evening of waiting;
How it came and went away
I was powerless to do anything
But your love solaced my heart & soul

Bazme khayal mein tere husn ki
Shamma jal gayee
Dard ka chaand bujh gaya hijr ki
Raat dhal gayee

Your beauty lit up

The room of my thoughts,
The moon of pain burnt out
Ending the night of separation

Jab tujhe yaad kar liya
Subah mehek – mehek uthi
Jab tera gham jagaa liya
Raat machal machal gayee

Thoughts of you
Make my mornings beautiful,
This pain of separation
Make my nights restless

Dil se to har muaamla
Kar ke chale the saaf hum
Kehne mein unke saamne
Baat badal badal gayee

Thought I had all the issues
Resolved when I began
When it came to telling you
Things became different

Akhire shab ke humsafar
“Faiz” na jaane kya huye
Reh gayee kis jagah sabaa
Subah kidhar nikal gayee.

Oh my friend of eternity
Why are you away from me?
How come the morning breeze
Got parted from the morning itself.

I'd be glad if I managed to do an inch of justice to the words of the great poet.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Would you like to have a Drag, please?

Me (almost an ex smoker) & my father (an ex smoker) went to watch the now iconic ‘Munnabhai….’ last Sunday in one of those glossy multiplexes. To collect the tickets (done through tele-booking), we reached 45 mins in advance. This gave us some time to appreciate the newly done interiors of the theater. While doing so, my eyes came across something, which didn’t have much to appreciate in it…on the contrary, it demanded criticism and that’s the reason why I am writing this.

What was that ‘something’?
A beautifully laid out, softly lit, glassy and classy kiosk of a considerable size in a conspicuous corner. The ones that you would think should be displaying/selling branded jwellery, perfumes, international chocolates or exotic teas.

The displayed items were all the brands of CIGARETTES made by the house of ITC, laid out like designer watches or Swarovsky crystals. On the front were two A4 sheet saying ‘NOT FOR BELOW 18’ & ‘SMOKING IS INJURIOUS TO HEALTH’

Selling cigarettes in such a seductive manner in a public place like a Multiplex is incorrect. Kids and teenager with impressionable minds frequent these places, more than adults and the chances of them getting drawn towards visually attractive stalls is pretty high (in fact, I saw that happening). Considering that cigarettes on their own hold youngsters (at least of the male variety) fancy, a glossy way of displaying/selling them will further damage the situation and build a society with perhaps a higher number of smokers than what it would have been without that kiosk.

Cinemax must be pocketing a huge amount by selling this space to ITC, which in turn is getting these potential customers. Both these houses need a lesson in Social Responsibility. Putting up two A4s, way below the eye-level (can be read only by learned toddlers) saying something, which means nothing isn’t exactly Social Responsibility.

These corporates should be following what my father’s response to the situation was. If they have to sell cigarettes in this page 3 manner, they should also put up a full-size skeleton of a human being with a cigarette in his mouth and saying, ‘This is what happens to a smoker’. Sounds logical, eh?

Some of you might be thinking, that coming from a smoker, this piece is hypocritical. But, the fact of the case is that I am absolutely aware of the health hazards involved and hence would not want anyone to take it up. As for me, I’m down to a couple of cigarettes a day and have made a promise to quit it completely once I become a father.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Background Score

in my youthful romantic ways, heavily into all sorts of music and completely into movies, i always carried the concept of a 'background score in everyday life'. i'd be thinking of the right kind of musical score for the situation i am in. for example, while i am breaking up with my first girl-friend, who succumbed to parental pressures, somewhere between the tears my system was humming 'heartbreak hotel' or when i came to mumbai city for the first time, the song was 'ek akela is sheher mein' or whenever i am sitting underneath a full-moon sky, its always the 'moonlight' sonata (btw, the walkmans and the i-pods of today fulfill the same need). one day, i shall develop a book on this concept. for now, i shall limit myself to the subject of background music in the movies.

Storytelling in mainstream Bollywood is still very much like the traditional Indian art of storytelling (ancients art forms like Ramleelas and Tamashas). The characters are black & whites and stereotypes; the dialogues, melodramatic; the make-ups, garish and the music, ever-loud and jarring (probably, the lack of technologies like a mike also played a role) and the audiences just love it.

Personally speaking, I find all of it quiet revolting to my system, but that’s the succesful template. So, when somebody like A R Rehman comes along and gives a new dimension to the meaning of background scores, its a delight to the ears. Unlike most Bollywood musicians, who use templated music for different sequences (female choruses for poignant sequences or sitar strings for happiness), this man gets under the skin of the script (and he also chooses his scripts well) and writes a score just like a Javed Akhter must've written that script. The end result is what you hear in 'Swades', 'Rang De Basanti' or Water. Of course, he has been tutored by another master craftsman of background score 'Illayaraja', but the pupil has taken it to newer heights.

In the B&W days of movies, we had masters like SD Burman, Shankar Jaikishenand the maverick Salil Chowdhury who treated background score as a separate entity and gave quality time to its construction. For the soundtrack of 'Madhumati' (set on the hills of north India), Salil Chowdhury spent months in the hills of Darjeeling hunting for the right sound.

Before I end, I can’t resist mentioning the ordeal which my poor ears went through while watching an otherwise decent movie. This is 'Sarkar' by Ram Gopal Verma. What was puzzling was the fact that in certain sequences the music was way louder than the dialogues!!! Why??? I want to ask that question to Mr Verma.

in my coming postings, i shall be examining the subject of background score in the movies of other worlds (Mars and Uranus). for now, i shall leave you with a recommendation - pick up the score of 'Water' by Rehman and you wont regret it!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Rock, Bhajan & Qawwali

i wasn't too happy to miss the rock show by INXS that happened in Mumbai, lat Thursday. later, when an old friend gave reviews of the show, it added to my misery...apparently it was an excellent concert with the new lead singer, JD Fortune (who was found through the popular reality show) doing an excellent job.

currently, i am reading a book gifted to me by another old friend on my 30th birthday. its a fine book comprising essays on music & literature, by the famous Czek writer, Milan Kundera known for his abstract writing style in the realm of fiction. this book is called 'Testaments Betrayed'

if you are wondering, whats common between the above two statements (besides the 'old friend' bit), read the following passage take from the above mentioned book. its taken from the chapter on the famous composer 'Stravinsky' but its got to do with rock music.

"At jazz concerts people applaud. To applaud means: I have listened to you carefully and now I am declaring my appreciation. The music called "rock" changes the situation. An important fact: at rock concerts people do not applaud. It would be almost sacrilege to applaud and thus to bring to notice the critical distance between the person playing and the person listening; we come here not to judge and evaluate but to surrender to the music, to scream along with the musicians, to merge with them; we come here to seek identification, not pleasure; effusion, not delight. We go into ecstasy here: the beat is strong and steady, the melodic motifs are short and endlessly repeated, there are no dynamic contrasts, everything is fortissimo, the song tends toward the highest range and resembles screaming. Here we're no longer in those little nightspots where the music wraps the couple in intimacy; we're in huge halls, in stadiums, pressed one against the next, and, if we're dancing at a club there are no couples; each person is doing his moves by himself and together with the whole crowd at the same time. The music turns the individuals into a single collective body: talking here about individualism and hedonismis just one of the self-mystifications of our time, which (like any other time, by the way) wants to see itself as different from what it is." (i shall reflect on this line in some other posting).

brillaint reflections on the essence of rock music. interestingly, two other forms of music, both belonging to the Indian subcontinent and both carrying devotional flavours, embody the same kind of mood as mentioned above by the great writer. they are the following:

a) Bhajans: Popularised by the proponents and founders of the 'Bhakti' movement like Meerabai & Tulsidas, and took place in northern India in the 15th century. Bhajans are songs written and sung for a particualr diety (usually, Krishna) with minimal instruments and a huge chorus. Usually, they begin slowly, building a tempo, and then get into a loop of lyrics and melody which are then repeated several times. The desired effect is to feel-at-one with the concerned diety and some of the devotees really end up feeling that way...The powers of music!

Late Kumar Gandharva, Pt. Bhimsen Joshi and Pt jasraj are some of the great muscians who have recorded lots of these Bhajans for the likes of us to appreciate. Perhaps, you can enjoy them and try to find the link that I am talking about.

b) Qawwalis:
This style was the expression of the 'Sufi' movement, which was parallel to the 'Bhakti' movement, during the same period of time and in the same geography. It was the Moslem counterpart to the Hindu 'Bhakti' movement. Once again, lyrics written to express love for God sung in a loopy sort of way and repeated until one gets into a trance and starts to believe that he/she is at-one with the Creator.

The genius of Late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan took this form of music to the world arena and with the help of rock artistes like Eddie Vedder and Peter Gabriel, turned it into world-music.

Interesting, how music is universal and connected...always

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Continuing with my 3rd and the last part in the series on greatest auteurs of all time, I present our very own Satyajit Ray...the man who put India on the map of world cinema. Once again, much has been written about this multi-faceted genius and I shall try add my bit to it.

Going back to my postings, if Keislowsky had a unique mind and Bergman a philosophical, this handsome Bengali from Calcutta was one of the most humane of the filmmakers (one of the most because, you have others like Sica, and Fellini). The depiction of kids and women in his films, be it Durga & Apu in 'Pather Panchali' or Charulata in 'Charulata' goes on to establish this inherent humaneness in him. I shall take the aid of these 2 films to illustrate this.

Pather Panchali(The little song of the Road), 1955: Tells the story of a poor family of 4 in a typical Bengal village, almost through the eyes (almost because its not blatant) of the two kids, elder sister Durga and brother Apu. Thorughout the movie you will see the two kids, shot in the most fascinating fashion. Eyes popping out from behind the leaves or their reflection in the local pond along with the swimming ducks, or them running behind the local candyman or trying to catch the glimpse of a running train. The viewer is moved to the bones...at least I was!

Directors, ranging from Ashutosh Gowarikar in 'Swades' to Deepa Mehta in 'Water' (the official foreign film entry from Canada for the Academy Awars) to Adoor Gopalakrishnan, they've all been influenced by his works. In fact, watching 'Water' was a sort of deja-vu fro me, finding many shades of Ray in it.

Charulata (1964): Based on a short story of Tagore, the film tells the tale of a lonely wife, Charu, in 19th century Bengal, and her growing feelings for her brother in law, Amal. Two scenes of the film are enough to showcase his understanding of a woman's soul: The first seven wordless minutes of the film, depicting Charu's ennui, and the "Garden-swing sequence", where Charu confronts her love for Amal. Am not describing the sequences in detail as it may kill the joy of those who havent watched it yet and are planning to.

Madhabi Mukherji's portrayal of a lonely woman is unparalleled...just check her out with the binoculars, looking very pretty, bored and hence absolutely vulnerable. Something, which Ray establishes in the first 7 minutes of the movie.

Ray films are markedly diverse in their subject matter. He said in 1975, "Critics have often accused me of a grasshopperish tendency to jump from theme to theme, from genre to genre... rather than pursue one dominant subject in an easily recognizable style that would help them to pigeonhole me, affix me with a label...All I can say in self-defence, if one is needed, is that this diversity faithfully reflects my own personality and that behind every film lies a cool decision."

Which brings me to another point: his versatality. He was a brilliant illustrator (used to make story-boards for all his films), great designer (designed the covers of many a books like Nehru's 'Discovery of India', musician, script-writer, a gifted writer with wild imagination. My point is he could have been the greatest in any of the above mentioned field. Its just that he chose movies as his primary medium of expression. Just pick up any of his movies on DVD (made possible by Merchant-Ivory Production's recent resurrection of Ray films) and enjoy!

Once, defending Ray on critics's remarks on the slowness/dullness of Ray films, Akira Kurosawa said, "they [Ray's films] are not slow at all. It can be described as flowing composedly, like a big river". And, I can watch this flow, endlessly!

* Find a beautifully written review of Apu trilogyon http://www.toxicuniverse.com/review.php?aid=1000439

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A short piece on Killing

Yesterday's HT published an Open letter to our President from Jagmohan Singh (nephew of Bhagat Singh) & Anand Patwardhan (a documentary filmmaker) on why capital punishment is not solution and why Afzal should be granted a repreive. I am reproducing their points below:
  • A civil society should not descend to the status of murderers by preferring revenge over far better forms of justice.
  • All investigations, however meticuous, are subject to human error. Such errors become irreversible in case the death penalty is imposed. All over the world, there have been cases of executed people being proved innocent after their death.
  • In a country like ours, where there is a huge gap between, where there is a huge gap between the priveleged and the dispossessed, the death penalty becomes the final method for implementing class injustice. A cursory glance at the list of all those executed in our country will reveal that almost all of them were poor. The rich are rarely found guilty and even if they are, they are rarely executed.
  • There is no evidence to suggest that the death penalty is a deterrent to violent and heinous crime. Countries like Britain that did away with the death penalty did not see a rise in such crimes while countries like the US, which continue to impose the penalty, show no decline.

I would like to add another point to these absolutely strong arguments against capital punishment.

  • In almost all cases of death penalty, the time elapsed between the sentence and its execution extends upto weeks, months or sometimes years. I can't imagine, what happens to the system of the individual who has nothing but his/her execution to look forward to. And if an eye for an eye is the logic behind the sentence, then in all such cases their victims do not have a clue that they will be dying (even in the case of a cold-blooded murder). No murderer pre-informs the victim that, 'On the dawn of 30th October, 2006 I shall be ending your life'.

Afzal could be the key guy behind the Parliament attack, but can his death ensure anything which will be of use to the society?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Circle* of Ideas

in the world of marketing/communication, there is an area which has been labeled by different firms in different ways like 360 degree ideas, connection ideas, below-the-line (BTL) ideas etc. in plain english it means the ideas which would go on to push the Brand in ways beyound mass advertising on print/tvcs (for a detailed conversation on the subject you can always go to a blog called 'indiadrant' on blogspot by a fellow advertising professional. the blog largely delves in the zone of marketing/communication...it's fairly good).

so, there are certain 'Connection' ideas which have been around in my mindspace for some time and a few companies can make some extra millions from them :) here they are, for whatever its worth:

1. Plaster the seatbacks
the various Pune based construction companies can tie up with the flourishing Volvo bus service to put up their communication on the a) back of the seats inside the buses and b) spots on the loud movie-show they run for the passengers. considering the amount of 'vella' time the passengers have in that 3-4 hour journey ( Mumbai-Pune), the company can end up getting a good set of relevant captive audience.

2. Go to the apartments
big cities, so many apartments/office buidings and as many nameplate boards as the key to the flats....a nice branding zone for a) the brand of cement used in the building b) the brand of appliances used in the building and other such categories

3. Insides of the lift
a few companies are already putting themselves up in this zone...fun-republic, the multiplex in mumbai is already putting its lifts to the great cause of advertising.

4. Choppers with Banners
imagine the number of people on marine drive (mumbai) on a weekend...what if a chopper was to roam around in the zone with huge banners of a brand. high visibility/high noise (am including the the sound of the chopper here). a chopper ride with some celebrity over the sealine of Mumbai could be the prize for some contest from this brand.

am sure, you people out there will be having many more ideas like these...share!

*the title comes from 360 degrees which makes a circle.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Through a glass, darkly!

I continue with my two part series on movie directors, which makes me think i should go for a third part too. I shall explain later why...for now its...

Ingmar Bergman, Swedish stage director and film-maker, famous for landmark movies like 'The Seventh Seal', 'Persona' amongst others.

If Keislowsky was the most unique mind in the history of movies, Bergman was the most philosophical of the film-makers. While the essence of Keislowsky movies were always different and unique, Bergman's was mostly about the basic questions of life (God/Existentialism/Love as the answer to all problems) through different plots. Its like the difference between a Graham Greene (Keislowsky of literature) and Sartre (Bergman).

Once again I would like to demostrate what I am trying to say by taking a few examples:

The Seventh Seal (1957)
Much has been said about this landmark movie. Man takes on Death in a game of chess and whoever wins, wins (but we, the viewers know that it has to be the 'Death' as that has been the ritual since forever). During this game of chess, some of the most existential of the conversations keeps happening between the two in the simplest of the language (which was a regular Bergmans' fixture). Take this for example,

Death: Don't you ever stop asking?
Antonius Block (Man): No. I never stop.
Death: But you're not getting an answer.


Antonius Block: Who are you?
Death: I am Death.
Antonius Block: Have you come for me?
Death: I have long walked by your side.
Antonius Block: So I have noticed.
Death: Are you ready?
Antonius Block: My body is ready, but I am not.

Need I say anything more...

Through a Glass, Darkly (1961)
The phrase, "... through a glass darkly..." first appears in the writings of the Apostle Paul. "To see "through a glass" - a mirror - "darkly" is to have an obscure or imperfect vision of reality. Paul explains that we do not now see clearly, but at the end of time, we will do so.

On a breezy islnd, a recently released mentally sick young woman, is spending her vacation with her husband , a doctor, her father, a writer and her younger brother. Karin is suffering from hallucinations and hysteria. She thinks she is visited by God. And the father, being a compulsive writer, starts recording the fall of his daughter as a subject material for his next work.

Where the movie becomes a brilliant philosophical study in celluloid, is in the last 5 minutes of conversation between the writer father and son, wherein the father (read Bergman himself) tries to suggest that 'love is probably the only way to carry on in this otherwise meaningless life with 'no concrete sign of God'.

trust me fellows, you would need whisky shots for Bergman!

now for the reason behind thinking about a third part to this series on directors. if you have noticed, there is a trend of 'Trilogy' amongst the great artistes (specially in movies)...some examples:

- Keislowsky with his 'Color Trilogy' (Red, Blue and White)
- Bergman with his 'Through a glass, Darkly', 'Winter Light' and 'The Silence'
- Satyajit ray with his 'Apu Trilogy'
- Godfather, Matrix etc
- Jean Paul Sartre with his 'Roads to Freedom' trilogy (Age of Reason, The Reprieve and Iron in the Soul)
- The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz
and many more...

this 'Trilogy' phenomena is indeed a point to ponder!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Camera Buff!

for those who dont know me much or havent paid attention to my profile, i am currently recovering from a slipped disc. i was on bed-rest/house arrest for 2 weeks. to preserve my sanity under such circumstances i took the aid of my DVD player and nearby 'dial-a-wine' shop. most of my waking hours of those 2 weeks was spent between sips of 'white' and watching world cinema by some of the great auteurs of modern times. let me examine 3 of my favorites.

Krzysztof Kieślowski, the first one is the late polish director and the man behind 'Color trilogy', 'Decalogue' amongst other greats.

he was probably one of the most unique minds in the history of movie-making. this view of mine comes purely from the subjects/ideas he chose for his films (i am not even mentioning the art of movie-making here). let me try to illustrate this with a few examples:

No End (1984) : the film opens on the close-up of a man saying that he died two days ago and one starts to think about films like 'ghost' (from hollywood) and 'truly madly deeply (from UK) and realizes brain behind this big idea - a dead man moving around to see and hear the grieving people he has left behind...totally unique!

Blind Chance (1981) : this one is on the various 'what ifs' we all keep facing throughout without realizing it most of the time. it begins with a young man trying to catch a moving train. the rest of the movie (well...actually 3 movies) unfold depending on wether he catches the train or not and the following set of circumstances he gets into. the detailing of the all the three films is impeccable. and yes, you guessed it right this movie inspired the recent experimental hit, 'run lola run'.

Camera Buff (1979): an ordinary family man turns into an acclaimed and obsessive movie-maker and it all began with buying a movie-camera to shoot the growing up of his daughter. a film-making project from the company he works for gets him interested in the art of movie-making and he realizes his calling. in the process he gets distanced from his family (the very first reason he got the camera for), but he doesnt mind it. took me back to 'moon and the six pence' by somerset maughum, the book based on the life of the famous painter, 'gaugin'. the film also has autobiographical shades.

i havent yet begun talking about '3 colors' or 'decalogue'...maybe sometime later. my next posting will be about the other director i mentioned earlier. in the meantime, try watching something by 'keislowsky'...you will enjoy it. and dont forget to add some white wine to the experience...it works beautifully!

Monday, September 25, 2006

New Lamps for Old, the advertising way!

on my way to office i was flipping through today's newspaper and i saw an ad which made me feel a little bad about my profession. something akin, to the way you feel after youve chewed on the pip while having the orange. let me describe the ad to you:

it was an exchange offer ad for Maruti Baleno:

Copy: 'Exchange your old car for a brand new Baleno' (so far, so good)

Visual: (now this is where the 'leaves a bad taste' part comes in: its the often used 'before / after' visual technique. its just that the visual for 'before' is an 'sad-looking old man' and the one for after is a 'young dude-looking man'.

okay...i get the point immediately and the agency's (topmost in the country) job is done....client's happy. but then, there is something called sensitivity/sensibility/good sense. what i got appalled at is the blatant implication of the message (purely from the used visuals): 'get rid of old stuff from your life, for instance elederly people'. not the best thing to come out from an almost heritage brand belonging to a country where we are taught to respect elders, right from our childhood.

being a sensitive person, perhaps i am exaggerating things a bit....please convince me that i am.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Modern times, Ancient man

because good ol' zimmy inspired the blogname, i shall baptise the blog with my views on 'modern times', his latest album. much has already been written in the media about the album and its climbng up the charts beating the likes of beyonce et al.

musically, he experiments beautifully with varied genres like pre-rock 'n' roll, country blues and swingtime jazz. and you get all this lace with his whiskey-wisdom soaked voice. lyrically, he fills it up with wittily self-depreciative asides ('my mind tied up in knots, i keep recycling the same old thoughts'), heartfelt love poems and (most surprising of all) harsh political critique (couched as ever in Biblical terminology) on the grand finale, ''ain't talkin' - dylan's 44th album is much more than i had expected from this 65-year old genius.

the worrying musings on mortality have given way to a frankly peppy acceptance of his place in the world. he even name-checks alicia keys (i was thinkin' 'bout alicia keys, couldn't keep from crying when she was born in hell's kitchen, i was living down the line)

some words from my personal favorite, 'aint talking' (with the shades of 'highlands' from 'time out of mind'). look-out for the usage, 'toothache in my heel'...only a dylan can do it!

All my loyal and my much-loved companions
They approve of me and share my code
I practice a faith that's been long abandoned
Ain't no altars on this long and lonesome road

Ain't talkin', just walkin'
My mule is sick, my horse is blind.
Heart burnin', still yearnin'
Thinkin' 'bout that gal I left behind.

Well, it's bright in the heavens and the wheels are flyin'
Fame and honor never seem to fade
The fire gone out but the light is never dyin'
Who says I can't get heavenly aid?

Ain't talkin', just walkin'
Carryin' a dead man's shield
Heart burnin', still yearnin'
Walkin' with a toothache in my heel

some trivia on the album:

- dylan is currently featured in an iPod commercial, seen performing "someday baby" from the album

- a short film starring scarlett johansson and set to dylan's new song "when the deal goes down" premiered on AOL and was released online and to video channels last thursday. directed by academy award nominee bennett miller (capote), the film was shot on 8mm and takes place in the early 1960s. clues connecting the film's scenes to dylan's early career are creatively placed throughout the piece.

- the album is self-produced under the pseudonym Jack Frost (cute!!!)